This is a personal narrative by a girl that fell for the glitter of this world, but soon realized that it wasn't for her. She realized that Islam was the truth, that this life was only temporary, and that one day she would have to face her creator. This is her story... InshAllah, you will learn from her story and spread dawaa to other lost Muslim youth, showing them that Islam is the way.
As a Muslim teenager growing up in America, particularly at the ages of 16 through 18, I struggled with practicing my faith. In high school, I experienced a period of the most turmoil and doubt, torn between following the practices of my faith or the ideals of American society. I did not start wearing the hijab, or the headscarf worn by Muslim women, until the very end of my senior year, transforming from a homecoming queen to a committed Muslim woman. This drastic transition included many obstacles concerning modesty, relations with the opposite gender, and simply just finding out who I am.
As prescribed in the Qur’an, Muslim women are required to dress modestly. According to the interpretation of conservative Muslim scholars, “Tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and guard their private parts (from illegal sexual acts), and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils all over their bodies…” (Quran 24:31). Obeying the command to dress modestly was one of my major struggles in high school. As a 17 year old girl, I was falling for the temptations of modern clothing and in-season styles. I cherished dressing up in westernized clothes from stores such as “Urban Outfitters” and “Forever 21,” and loved having my hair straightened. My mother would often tell me that my jeans were too tight, and that I should start shopping for some looser ones. I considered it, but then came to the conclusion that loose jeans just didn’t look right. Homecoming and Prom were my favorite events of the school year, merely because I took such great pleasure in dressing up. At the time, I could not fathom giving up my passion for clothing that appealed to the American society. I lived by the quote, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Why not enjoy the pleasures of a westernized world if I’m living in it? As long as I lived in America, I might as well dress and act like an American.
However, during that same time period, it was during the month of Ramadan that I went to the masjid, or mosque, every night. Nevertheless, on the most important night of Ramadan, I had the senior class Powder-puff game. I didn’t even have to contemplate where I would be. I knew I was definitely not going to miss the game. That day, it was my main focus- what I was going to wear, who I was going with, what I was going to do after. Point being, I was not thinking about my faith. Looking back, this time was significant because consistency plays a major role in Islam. The fact that I was going to the masjid, every day for the Ramadan night prayers,tarawih, was great. In spite of this, the fact that I was so engrossed in a worldly matter that I did not even care about my faith, made me question whether or not I was being sincere about the month of Ramadan in the first place.
I remember arriving at the game early, huddling up with the team as we were getting excited to defeat the juniors. As we huddled up, the coach was exuberantly explaining the first play for the game. Looking around, I suddenly realized that I was dressed no different than any of my fellow teammates; black Soffee shorts, sparkly glitter, pigtails held up with orange ribbons, and face paint used for intimidation. For a moment, I looked up at the crowded stands to see all of my teammates’ families cheering them on. It was then that I remembered why my family decided not to make it that night, in which a feeling of guilt crept over me. Homecoming week was the week I had been waiting for all year, so what was there to feel guilty about? Nonetheless, I quickly pushed whatever uneasy thoughts I had away and set my mind back in the game. Adiba Aman scored her third touchdown, as each person, including myself, was growing more and more excited. I felt at ease again, reminding myself that this night was more than worth it. I was with all of my friends indulging in excitement, running across the field with them in my shorts, yelling and laughing after each touchdown scored. This is the life, I thought to myself. It seemed as if my love for such worldly pleasures were increasing, and ultimately leading to the detriment of my faith.
I was living in the moment when we won the game, celebrated at the bonfire afterwards, and continued to rejoice with the team’s victory dinner. When my night was finally over and I reached home, I opened the front door, to see my father humbly sitting on the floor, reading the holy Qur’an, embracing the month of Ramadan, giving me an unspoken reminder of the resolution I failed to keep. As I walked up to my room, the same feeling of guilt that I pushed away just a few hours ago, came crawling back to me as I entered my home. I do not even recall praying Isha before I went to bed, the last of the five Muslim prayers. I figured it would be hypocritical of me to pray, after I just spent my whole night in sin. The next day at the Homecoming football game, to my absolute surprise, I was announced the Chestnut River High School 2009 Homecoming Queen. Not only was I excited to have won the title, but I was on cloud nine because Mike asked me to go with him.
Michael Richardson was the boy whom I had really liked since middle school, and as time went on, it felt like my attachment to him would only grow stronger. It was not until my sophomore year in high school, when we started having classes together, where we really started to bond. I felt nervous yet incredibly comfortable around him at the same time. I really liked him, or at least I thought I did. I loved his hugs and the way he cared, or at least the way he acted like he cared, when I talked to other guys. I loved the way he made me laugh. And I loved being seen with him in the hall ways, letting the other girls know without saying a word that he was mine. As cliché as it may sound, he was my last thought at night, and first thought in the morning. I got ready for school every morning, hoping that maybe today he would look at me as more than just a friend.
I enjoyed our late night talks. He took great advantage of the fact that I liked him. He knew exactly what to do and what to say to make my day. He never admitted that he liked me, yet his actions genuinely made me believe that he did. He would put his arm around me in the hallways, and always interrupted any encounter I would have with another guy. It was as if he didn’t want me, but at the same time, he didn’t want me to like anyone but him, which for some odd reason, I had no problem with. The relationship I had with Mike felt so perfect. He wasn’t my “boyfriend”, so it freed me of the guilt of being in aharam, or unlawful, relationship. We never got too intimate, besides hugging, which I thought at the time, was no big deal. He was a “good guy” and he made me feel good about myself so, what was the harm in it?
During the time of my high school years, although I did not wear the hijab, I still played somewhat of a role in the Muslim community. I attended Islamic school on Sundays in which I learned more about my faith, and even developed close relationships with the sisters at themasjid. They were pure-hearted and innocent, and I couldn’t help but love them. I secretly envied their committed Muslim way of life, yet felt that I could not do the same. What troubled me the most about wearing the hijab, is that I knew it would change my life, and I was afraid of that change. Sadly, I truly believed that I could represent my “Muslim side” at the masjid, and my “societal side” at school and be completely happy. I claimed to be proud of being a Muslim, yet was still ashamed of wearing the hijab at school. I claimed to be proud of having Mike, yet was utterly embarrassed of telling the sisters at themasjid about him. At this point, I was having a personal jihad, or internal struggle, with my identity. It seemed like no matter what I did, I was not satisfied with myself. I wanted to fully commit myself to Islam, but at the same time, I was not willing to give up the worldly pleasures of this life. I was not willing to give up the westernized wardrobe that I had developed such an attachment to. Nor was I willing to give up the level of comfort I had with my male friends. I enjoyed embracing them and hanging out with them outside of school. I wanted the best of both worlds. Most importantly, the one factor I felt like I simply could not give up was Mike.
I wish I had an amazing story to tell about my journey to hijab, but in all honesty, I don’t. During the spring break of 2009, I had just come back from a wonderful Muslim camp, and afterwards, I decided to go to Friday prayer with my younger sister at the masjid. After Friday prayer, my mom called me to pick up her prescription from Giant. I decided to leave my hijab on going into the grocery store. It was a pretty neutral experience, considering I did not see anyone I knew there. That same day, my sister and I decided to go to the mall. My younger sister has been wearing hijab since middle school, so I remember her watching me curiously as I decided to give the hijab a try at the mall. Again, it was a neutral experience, and I did not feel dramatically different. That same night, an old friend, who also recently started wearing the hijab, asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with her. I accepted, and decided to wear the hijab to dinner. Going there, I had no intentions of wearing the hijab forever; I was just trying it out. However, my friend, after seeing me, gave me some words of encouragement, reminding me that one cannot go wrong by following God’s commands. What is this world in comparison to the Hereafter? She left me with some food for thought, that last Sunday night of spring break. I remember tossing and turning sleeplessly that night in my bed, struggling with the decision of “to veil or not to veil.” It was that night that I realized that I could not pretend to be two different people. Knowing that I had to choose who I wanted to be ate me alive. Deep down inside, I knew that deciding to wear the hijab meant sacrificing many of the worldly pleasures which I was so engulfed in, including Mike. Why was he my major concern? Who am I ultimately trying to please in my life? Who should I ultimately be trying to please in my life? I came to the harsh realization that if it was not for Mike, the decision to wear the hijab would not have been as difficult. Yes, I liked him, but don’t I love Allah, or God, more? Yes, my entire high school career I have been trying to please, attract, and catch his attention, but wasn’t it time I try to please Allah? Wasn’t it time I stop living for others and start living for Him, the Creator of all things? I genuinely felt that internal struggle of jihad in me that night, but alhamdulillah (all praise is due to God); I awoke that morning ready for my first day of hijab.
I realized that living a double life was an absolute bizarre and selfish theory of mine. I could not possibly worship Allah and fully submit to Islam without sacrifice, even if that sacrifice meant giving up things I loved. My newfound goal was to aim to please my Lord, and Him only. As expected, Mike did not handle my decision to wear thehijab very well. His initial reaction was confusion, then anger. Although I was not surprised by his discouragement, I was hurt and as a result, decided to avoid him. Neither of us knew how to handle our “relationship”, or whatever we had going on, with my new changes, which led to us not speaking for two months. As time went on and it came close to graduation, I took the first step and told him I did not want to end things on a bad note, considering we both probably would not see each other as often anymore. Although we went back to being friends, it was clear that things were not the same to any further extent, nor were they going to be.
Although I now realize and acknowledge that many of the decisions I made in high school were contradicting to my Islamic beliefs, I realized that I would not appreciate Islam the way I do today if it weren’t for those experiences. Little did I know that a simple piece of cloth would change my entire view on the purpose of life. I have truly begun to develop a sincere love for the hijab. My identity is not only internal, but can now be seen externally, for I am almost right away recognized as a Muslim woman. People now appreciate me for who I am, not what I am. “My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety” (A Letter to the Culture). No longer do I get dressed in the morning trying to attract a particular guy, or better yet American society in general. I now look at myself in the mirror, making sure I am dressed modestly, making sure that my Creator, Allah, is pleased with me. The only standards I now aim to meet are Allah’s.
Before I “converted to hijab”, it was as though I did not want others to know who the real me was. Ironically, I myself did not even know who the real me was. Whenever I left the masjid, or left my house, it was though I left my true identity behind with me. Now, I cannot fathom going anywhere without my hijab. Through my experiences, I realized that I did not have to hide being Muslim. I realized that Islam was not just at home, the masjid, or at camp. Wearing the hijab has helped me to incorporate Islam throughout every aspect of my life.
In spite of all this, I cannot say that after deciding to wear the hijabthat my level of faith has been at a permanent high. I definitely have my ups and downs. There are days when I get frustrated because I cannot seem to wrap my hijab the right way, and ask myself why I even set myself up for such a big commitment. There are nights when I look through my old high school pictures, which I still refuse to delete, and reminisce. I sometimes refer to those days as when “life was easy,” but what I fail to realize is that those photographs only show what was on the outside of me and those photographs show me dancing with the only guy I wanted to be dancing with at prom. Then again, I have to remind myself that this is the same guy who was not in favor of me covering although he knew it was what I wanted for myself. This was the same guy that did not support, or at least respect my decision, when I needed it the most. There are days when I still have to really convince myself not to text him to see how he is doing, because if he cared, he would contact me.
In the end, I still believe it is all worth it. It has taught me self discipline. No matter how difficult it gets, the fact that I am striving to fulfill a commandment set by my Lord is enough for me. I have to always remind myself that, “Islam is not a state of being but it is a process of becoming,” a quote attributed by Yusuf Islam, a prominent convert to Islam. Therefore, by wearing the hijab, I am not saying to others that “I am Islam,” but rather “I am a Muslim” (Taking Off). I feel as if I have embraced Islam in an entirely new light, and I am truly satisfied with my decision to fully commit to my faith. My passion for Islam has grown drastically throughout the short time frame of the past two years. I no longer allow American society to control my motives in life. Allah is my motive in life. The Hereafter is my motive in life. I schedule my day around prayer times, not prayer times around my day. I now try my best to remember that Allah is the Most-Merciful, and the Most Forgiving, and that He loves those who repent. I hope and pray that Allah continues to forgive me as I will continue to sin, for I am only human.